With the University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council (SRC) “standing in solidarity with Palestine” and other universities across Sydney and Melbourne issuing statements acknowledging only the “humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip”, Jewish students have been left feeling unsafe and unsupported.
The USYD SRC, which promoted last week’s protest at the Sydney Opera House, issued a lengthy statement in support of Palestine, adding, “Gaza has been under a blockade for 16 years and all Palestinians live under an occupied apartheid state, which is the root cause of violence.”
The Victoria University branch of the National Tertiary Education Union passed a motion expressing “unwavering support” for Palestine and calling for an end to “occupation and apartheid”.
Students attending Curtin University received an email titled “conflict in Gaza”, expressing shock by the “tragic events in the Gaza Strip”, but no mention of the attack by Hamas on Israeli civilians.
It was a similar story for students at Victoria University, with a letter sent addressing the distress caused by the “humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip”, but again no acknowledgment of the Hamas terror.
“My beautiful and sensitive Orthodox Jewish boy now fears for his safety at VU, as I know other Jewish students do,” Adam Slonim wrote to the president and chancellor of VU in reply.
Slonim subsequently told The AJN he received a phone call from the vice-chancellor “within two hours”. He said the VC “sounded upset” about Jewish students feeling threatened and would speak to chancellor Steve Bracks about a correction.
Monash University did issue a statement of support, saying it is “deeply concerned by the attacks on Israel by Hamas and condemn[s] the killing and capture of civilians and non-combatants”.
Federal Minister for Education, local MPs and senior Monash University leaders met with Jewish students and faculty last week.
Minister for Education Jason Clare said, “There’s nothing more important than the safety of students on campus. Antisemitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in our universities or in our communities.”
Clare said he had taken proactive measures, reaching out to universities across the nation seeking urgent advice about what measures they currently have in place and what additional actions they will take to protect students and staff.
Member for Macnamara Josh Burns MP echoed Clare’s sentiments. “Universities must be a place where all students feel safe and supported. Monash University has been a leader in the way they have worked with Jewish student leadership, and I thank them for that,” he said.
Shadow Minister for Education Sarah Henderson wrote to both Clare and Universities Australia chair Prof David Lloyd last week urging protections for Jewish university students. “Can you please urgently advise what action Australian universities are taking to better protect the safety of Jewish students on campus, particularly in light of the unprovoked atrocities committed by Hamas,” she wrote.
Vice-president of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students Paris Enten told The AJN Jewish students “unfortunately feel increasingly isolated on campus”.
“We are focused on ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Jewish students on campus through regular dialogue, with university administrations emphasising the importance of special considerations, mental health support and ensuring campus security are aware of our concerns.”